First came the horror. Then came the desire to help. And by Tuesday evening, as the first 24 hours passed and shock became grief, the people of Boston gathered to begin what will be the longest chapter in the story of the Marathon bombing: the healing.
Across the region, thousands came out for vigils to honor the victims of the Marathon Monday attack, holding candles, reciting prayers, and vowing to never forget.
At Garvey Park in Dorchester, more than 1,000 friends and strangers came out to honor 8-year-old Martin Richard, a neighborhood boy who was one of the three people who lost their lives in the attack. Richard’s sister and mother were seriously injured.
“This is just something we have to do, that we can’t let anyone take away from us,” said Joan Derosa, one of those who gathered to pay tribute. “Whoever did this wants us to fear them, but we won’t. We need to show them we’re going to go on living.”
On Boston Common, hundreds gathered for a vigil billed as “Peace, Here and Everywhere.” They decorated banners with sayings such as “We are Boston strong,” and heard the Emerson College a cappella group break into an impromptu performance of The Beatles’ “Let It Be.”
“I think it’s kind of beautiful,” said Alicia Carroll, an Emerson freshman at the vigil. “It reminds me of the patriotic feel of the inauguration. It’s nice to see so many people that care.”
At Northeastern University, students and faculty spilled out of a separate vigil in a campus ballroom, sharing hugs and words of encouragement.
“I walked slow, but I had to come. It’s the same type of feeling I had after 9/11. The destruction is smaller, but the feeling in the pit of my stomach is the same: My homeland was attacked.” — Ann McGinn, Dorchester
“When Gotham City needs a hero, it calls Batman. When Boston needs a hero, they look to the person next to them,” Bob Jose, associate dean, told the crowd. “We together here, we will be the reason that this community pulls through.”
At Brandeis University, more than 50 students and faculty gathered for an emotional multifaith memorial around a small pond on campus.
“We are reminded all over again that sometimes we have very little or no control over the circumstances we will face,” said Fred Lawrence, Brandeis president.
“Take a moment, look around you, and draw strength,” Lawrence told the crowd. “It’s impossible to go through these things alone, but it is very possible to go through them together.”
For those who came out to the vigils, the night was about being together as a people, about starting the process of repairing the emotional damage to themselves, and the larger community.
In Dorchester, Ann McGinn walked a mile from her home to get to the gathering, despite medical problems that usually prevent her from walking short distances.
“I walked slow, but I had to come,” she said. “It’s the same type of feeling I had after 9/11. The destruction is smaller, but the feeling in the pit of my stomach is the same: My homeland was attacked, so I had to be here for my own selfish reasons, because right now I need to be around people promoting hope and love, not loss and despair.”
She had spotted two women in the crowd wearing Marathon jackets and approached them to thank them for showing up. Those women, sisters Jeanine and Pamela Butz of Boston, were about to finish their first Boston Marathon when the explosions occurred.
They said they knew they had to come out in support, but thought long and hard about whether it was appropriate to wear their jackets.
“It’s a very heavy feeling wearing this jacket,” said Pamela, 22.
“But we thought we had to come out, had to wear the jackets, to represent all the runners,” said Jeanine, 27. “We feel especially terrible about what happened because the people who were hurt were the spectators, people who were there for us.”
At Northeastern, Joseph E. Aoun, president, told the crowd that some had suggested it was too early to have a vigil. He disagreed.
“It’s never too early to be together, to hug each other. It’s never too early to say, ‘I am here for you,’ ” he said. “We are here for you. And each one of us is here for the other.”Globe correspondents Anne Steele, Christina Jedra, and Jackie Reiss contributed to this report. Billy Baker can be reached at billybaker@